Like the song of the same name, everybody wants to rule the world. There’s something about being in charge that drives villains to try to take over the entire world. Doesn’t that seem like more trouble than it’s worth? Suddenly you have to deal with maintaining the world, handling the inevitable rebellions, and generally managing a bunch of things that are much less exciting than conquering the world. So why do it? This article is going to be essentially a collection of loose ideas and thoughts that will hopefully help and inspire you when creating your own villains, and offer some insight into how the villains of Tyrants & Hellions will stand out from the cliched villains we’ve seen time and time again.
Going back to yesterday’s article, a villain’s goals should tie into their motivations and desires. If a villain wants to take over the world, it should be for a reason other than “it would be cool.” Let’s review the list again: knowledge, power, justice, love, freedom, and order. How would ruling the world (or part of it) make it easier to achieve those goals?
A villain motivated by knowledge might seek to control the world so they are free to perform research or experiments. Vampires establishing communities of “cattle” is a well-worn fantasy trope, and variations on that involving necromancers, cultists, and other foes who need living people as a resource are almost as common. Being in charge also affords them a layer of insulation, allowing them to delegate tasks like dealing with outsiders or recruiting additional test subjects. This is the start of a theme you’ll see in analyzing each of these desires, the ability to delegate non-essential tasks and spend more time on what matters most to a villain is a strong motivator.
Power is a little tricky to look at here, because acquiring power usually means being in charge, but it can also mean personal power and strength, particularly for Hellions. Assuming your villain’s desire for power isn’t already “I want to be king of the world”, why would they add that to their goal? Taking charge means more minions, more minions means they can cover more ground while searching for whatever resources the villain needs to continue growing in power. A dragon with an army of kobold minions can send them out to locate treasure and artifacts, then only leave its lair for the things that are truly worth stealing.
The reason why a justice motivated villain would take over the world is perhaps best explained by a quote from an alternate universe Batman comic. In defending a world under martial law, this alternate version of the caped crusader declared, “We’ve made a world where no eight-year-old boy will ever lose his parents because of some punk with a gun!” The desire to prevent anyone else from suffering the way they have suffered can easily lead a villain to try to control the world. It’s coming from a good place, of course, but there’s a reason for that saying about what paves the road to hell.
Now let’s talk love. Why would someone focused on love try to take over the world? They might have a deluded view of the world, viewing people as helpless children who need to be nurtured and cared for. Just as a parent wouldn’t trust a baby to take cook food for itself or drive a car, this villain would remove freedom of choice not out of malice or a desire for control, but to keep the people of the world from hurting themselves through inexperience. They would want to guide the world, and teach it to behave the way they believe people should behave. Love also encompasses acceptance and belonging in the world, and a villain might try to conquer the world because they want to leave a legacy. They want to be famous, or at least infamous, and have their name remembered for centuries.
Freedom and order are, once again, two sides of the same coin. A villain who wants to conquer the world out of a desire for freedom likely sees themselves as a liberator, someone who is freeing the oppressed peoples of the world from the yoke of tyranny. Once they are in power, they can keep it that way. They also be more selfish about it, seeking the control the world so that they have absolute freedom in what they can do, and can dictate what is and is not acceptable behavior.
Order would typically motivate a villain to take over the world out of a desire to see the whole world follow what they believe to be the proper way to live. It allows them to implement laws and restrictions that shape the world. But what about selfish villains who are motivated by order? Political power and control would give them the ability to shape their personal environment to an extreme degree. They could surround themselves with layers of assistants and aides, requiring anyone who wanted to interact with them to go through miles of red tape. They might make everything require a legal process and several forms. Remember that not all villains have grand ambitions, a villain who values order might overthrow a democracy so they could institute a new form of government that they believe to be more ordered, such as a monarchy.
For the rest of this week’s posts, we’re going to set aside this list of personal values and delve deeply into a few external motivations for villainy: culture clashes, limited resources, and fear.
Steven Gordon - 2CGaming Team